Workmates can be breast mates
WOMEN often show no support for breastfeeding mothers in the workplace, but when they do, new mums are empowered to breastfeed for longer.
New research published in the journal Health Communication has revealed that support from female colleagues has more impact than encouragement from family and friends.
Australian Breastfeeding Association data shows that while 96 per cent of women start breastfeeding, many struggle to maintain the World Health recommendation to keep the child exclusively on the breast until six months of age and then complement with food until at least 12 months.
By four months, only 27 per cent of Australian women are still exclusively breastfeeding.
"As an increasing number of women return to work within the first year of their baby's life - 22 per cent within six months, and 44 per cent within 12 months - it is important that workplaces offer support," a spokeswoman for the association said.
The ABA also reports that when Australian women knew there was a breastfeeding policy in their workplace, 61 per cent exclusively breastfed to six months.
But when employees were unsure, or there was no policy, only 34 per cent exclusively breastfed to six months.
Research lead author Jie Zhuang from Texas Christian University said people may assume that women in the workplace encouraged one another, but that was not always the case.
Data showed that returning to work played a major role in the decision to quit breastfeeding, but receiving colleague support was instrumental to those who continued.
Public servant Suzanne Piddick has the support of colleagues to continue to breastfeed her 11-month-old twins.
"I'm able to pop to the childcare centre to feed them or express milk," she said.
"Staff can have lactation breaks. It is important for a woman to feel that her co-workers support her. My goal is to feed the twins for a few more months ."